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154 Ct. CI. Opinion of the Court Patents; validity; arrangement of old features-invalidity for.
Where the disclosures of several prior patents reveal that the patent claims in suit reach no new result or cooperation or conjoint action in the arrangement of features as set forth in the claims, the patent claims are invalid for lack of
invention. Patents Or 72(5, 6)
Samuel L. Davidson for plaintiffs. Max C. Louis, Alvin Guttag, and Cushman, Darby & Cushman were on the briefs.
G. M. Paddack, with whom was Assistant Attorney General William H. Orrick, Jr. for defendant.
DURFEE, Judge, delivered the opinion of the court:
This guit under Title 28, U.S.C., section 1498 was brought to recover compensation for the unauthorized manufacture for and use by the Government of a machine for washing laboratory glassware allegedly covered by claims contained in two different patents issued to the plaintiffs. The petition alleged the infringement of seventeen of the claims set forth in Letters Patents 2,202,344 and 2,260,518. However, during trial and in their brief and argument, the plaintiffs stated that only claims 2, 6, and 13 of patent 2,260,518 need be considered. That patent will be called the “ ?518 patent” wherever referred to, and the discussion will make no reference to the other patent.
The Fisher Scientific Co., one of the plaintiffs and licensee under the patents, furnished the defendant with a model of a washing machine for laboratory containers, with drawings, at the time of an early bid, and the materials were used by the defendant in the preparation of specifications in a subsequent invitation for bids. Another manufacturer bid lower than did Fisher and was awarded the contract. It is conceded that, if valid, the claims of the '518 patent were infringed since the accused machine was made in accordance with the disclosure of that patent and it responds in terms to the recitals of the claims on which plaintiffs rely. However, as will be developed below, it is our judgment that the claims 2, 6, and 13 of the '518 patent are invalid over the disclosures of a number of prior patents. The defendant has not produced sufficient evidence to support its contention that the patents in suit are misdescriptive, misleading, inadequate, or inop
Opinion of the Court
erative. However, this point need not be ruled upon in view of our holding on the invalidity of the claims.
To clarify our determination of the invalidity of the three claims relied on, we will also consider claim 1 of patent '518. Claim 1 and each of the other three claims vary somewhat from one to the other but, for the most part, reiterate the principal features of the machine illustrated. The claims define a washing machine, including a drum, rotatable inside a tank, the end plates of the drum being closely adjacent to the tank sides, which end plates have an arrangement of openings in parallel and perpendicular lines suitable for holding compartment forming devices which occupy substantially all of the space between the end plates and which have a means for latching into the end plate openings, operable from between the end plates. Claim 6 specifies that the compartment forming devices include a frame-mounted screen with spring means for yieldingly urging the screen into engagement with the articles in the compartment.
As we understand the plaintiffs' contentions, the invention covered by the claims in suit includes three features: a particular systematic arrangement of openings in the end plates; compartment forming devices capable of yieldingly engaging the articles to be washed and which cooperate with the end plates; and latching mechanisms operable within the space between the end plates permitting the compartment forming devices to be removed. Initially, we comment in passing only that the prior art as shown by numerous patents disclosed a washing machine comprising a tank within which a drum was rotated. These patents are identified in the findings and will not be repeated here. No invention was involved in placing the rotating drum within a tank in plaintiffs' machine.
It is the systematic arrangement of openings rather than simply the openings or the end plate itself which plaintiffs claim constitutes invention. However, the prior art discloses the practice of placing holes in end plates of washing machines. The Smith patent, partially reproduced in the appendix to the findings, discloses a dishwashing machine the end plates of which contain a number of holes for adjustable compartment forming devices. Other patents dis154 Ct. Cl. Opinion of the Court closing a multitude of openings in drum end plates are those of Baker, Bornot, and Beckwith. In addition to the perforated end plates, the Beckwith patent also discloses longitudinal bars or slats forming work compartments. Clearly, the use of holes in the drum end plates teaches nothing new in view of the disclosures of the prior patents.
We do not think that the claim of a particular, systematic, non-radial arrangement of the holes adds anything new or patentable. The specification of the P518 patent refutes the plaintiffs' present contention that the particular arrangement ultimately decided upon has crucial significance for the specification of the '518 patent states that the “plates may be of any configuration" and that the "openings may be systematically arranged in various fashions.” Cf. Straussler v. United States, this day decided, ante, p. 275. But even if the specification did not suggest that the arrangement of openings is a matter of choice and variable according to the particular purpose of the machine, the prior art discloses the provision of openings capable of receiving compartment forming devices which are arranged to follow a particular pattern. We again make reference to the Smith patent. To one having ordinary skill in the dishwasher art, it would have been apparent that the openings disclosed in the Smith patent could be varied when and as desired. That the systematic arrangement of holes in the '518 patent, if there is one, is parallel and perpendicular rather than radial, does not amount to invention.
Removable or adjustable compartment forming devices occupying the area between end plates of the drum are found in the devices covered by the patents issued to Willcox, Ratner, and Smith. Given the prior art teachings of perforated drum end plates and longitudinal devices for forming compartments to hold articles to be washed, our next inquiry leads to the conclusion that the latching system for joining the two is aggregative rather than inventive. The patents of Senge, Richards, and Karnopp teach spring-biased lugtype latch pins such as described in patent '518, and in the Karnopp and Richards patents they are operable from between the end plates, an obvious expedient. The movable spring-pin latched shelf had been incorporated at an early
Opinion of the Court date into bookshelves as well, and to use this latch device, disclosed by the prior art, in attaching the movable compartments of a washing machine to its perforated end plates is no more than combining old features without cooperation and without producing any new result.
The final feature of plaintiffs' device which they urge on the court as constituting invention is the frame-mounted, spring-biased screen which forms a compartment side. The Willcox patent, which is partially reproduced in the appendix to the findings, discloses a washing machine in which one side of a rotary compartment is of rectangular, framemounted wire net which is adjustable to engage or come in contact with the article to be washed. Spring pressure against a perforated holding element to yieldingly hold down items to be washed is shown in the Hoover patent. It would have been obvious to anyone having ordinary skill in the art to employ springs to yieldingly urge a screenlike compartment side, such as disclosed by Willcox, into engagement with articles within the compartment. It seems to us to be an obvious expedient to substitute spring means for the nut and bolt combination shown in the Willcox patent.
Finally, the plaintiffs stress that a novel, cooperative action was created between the spring-biased compartment side and the pattern of apertures in the end plates. But, as has been shown, both of these features were old and the manners of their individual operations were well-known. We can find no cooperative action between the formation of varying compartment sides and the placement of the entire compartment in one or another position, as the need or desire dictates, within the drum.
We see no new results or cooperation or conjoint action in the arrangement of the principal features of plaintiffs’ machine as set forth in the claims in suit. Claims 2, 6, and 13 of the '518 patent, relied on for recovery, are each invalid over the disclosures of the several prior patents discussed above and in the findings. Consequently, the plaintiffs' petition must be dismissed.
It is so ordered.
LARAMORE, Judge; MADDEN, Judge; WHITAKER, Judge, and JONES, Chief Judge, concur.
154 Ct. Ci. Findings of Fact
FINDINGS OF FACT
The court, having considered the evidence, the report of Trial Commissioner Donald E. Lane, and the briefs and argument of counsel, makes findings of fact as follows:
1. This is a patent suit under Title 28 U.S.C., Section 1498, for reasonable and entire compensation for the unlicensed use or manufacture by or for the defendant of certain inventions relating to washing machines disclosed in two United States Letters Patent owned by plaintiffs. At pretrial, the parties agreed to a separation of issues, and that the questions of validity and infringement of the patents in suit be first determined upon full proofs, findings of fact, and argument of counsel, and that any accounting issue be deferred.
2. Plaintiff Charlotte Chemical Laboratories, Inc., is a corporation organized and existing under the laws of the State of North Carolina, and has its principal office and place of business at 310 Templeton Avenue, Charlotte, North Carolina. Plaintiff Fisher Scientific Company is a corporation organized and existing under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and has its principal office and place of business at 717 Forbes Street, Pittsburgh 19, Pennsylvania. Plaintiff John H. Hamilton is a citizen of the United States of America, residing at State Laboratory of Hygiene, 214 West Jones Street, Raleigh, North Carolina. Plaintiff David B. Nicholson is a citizen of the United States of America, also residing at State Laboratory of Hygiene, 214 West Jones Street, Raleigh, North Carolina.
3. In defendant's motion for summary judgment filed July 26, 1957, defendant contended that the patent claims in suit are invalid as relating to a machine which is not useful or operative, and contended that plaintiffs would not be entitled to more than nominal damages. The defendant's motion for summary judgment was argued and overruled in open court January 14, 1958.
4. On May 28, 1940, patent 2,202,344 was issued to plaintiffs Hamilton and Nicholson on an application for patent filed in the United States Patent Office on January 24, 1936. On October 28, 1941, patent 2,260,518 was issued to plaintiffs